The Acid House is a good movie for people who like to be pummeled about the head, kicked in the yarbles and then thrown out with the trash. It consists of three stories adapted by Scottish writer Irvine Welsh from his collection of the same name.
Welsh came to fame as the author of Trainspotting, and when that gritty tome was made into a film in 1996, the author made it clear that he thought it was a weasely compromise of his original vision – that (and this may surprise anyone who considers the film edgy) it copped out on the drug angle. Welsh’s worldview is more thoroughly nihilistic than that movie’s ultimate "choose life" message – people get fucked up, he maintains, and if that bothers you then fuck you too.
So everybody in the Acid House trilogy is in bad shape at the beginning of their story and, by the end, little better if not worse. In "The Granton Star Cause," Boab Coyle (Stephen McCole) is in a general free fall, losing first his coveted position on the Granton Star soccer team, then his girlfriend, his job and his home – his presence interferes with his parents’ kinky sex life – before running into God at a local pub, who decides to turn him into a fly. And that’s just the premise.
In "A Soft Touch," the good-hearted Johnny (Kevin McKidd) is forced to marry the pregnant and egregiously slutty Catriona (Michelle Gomez), and settle down to a life of being terrorized and cuckolded by his neighbor, the reptilian Larry (Gary McCormack). Finally, in the title story, a goony idiot named Coco (Ewen Bremner) is struck by lightning during an acid trip, with the result that his soul – or something, since it’s not clear that the people in Welsh’s stories have souls – switches places with that of a newborn baby.
And there you have it, three ridiculous stories about losers in North Edinburgh, subtitled so you won’t miss any of the profane nuances. As directed by Paul McGuigan, there’s enough visual energy to hold your attention, and McCormack and Bremner give impressively cartoonish performances. But there’s too much sick-joke humor meant to upset little old ladies and contented burghers, and very little insight that really stings. It’s a wallow for the complacently disenchanted.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].